Giving the Gift of Life to Mario

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Laura Pacheco and Mario meeting for the first time, a year after she gave her bone marrow donation. (Courtesy of Laura Pacheco)

One day in April on the way to lacrosse practice her first year, Laura Pacheco ’16 decided to be swabbed for the Gift of Life.

Two years later, her junior year, she received a call telling her that she was a potential match for someone who was in need of a bone marrow transplant.

Pacheco came back to preseason and went to get blood work to confirm that she was a match. She was a 100% match.

There was a one in nine million chance of being a match, so after confirming this Pacheco went for more testing, included a long physical. Her donation occurred on Oct. 29.

“I wasn’t nervous at all because I felt I couldn’t be. I felt that whatever Mario was going through was far worse than what I was going through. It was only a one day sacrifice for me,” elaborated Pacheco.

On a recent weekend, Pacheco finally met the person she had donated bone marrow to. She was invited to come to Florida to meet the person she had donated to.

She had to wait a year after her original donation, sign consent forms, and fly to Florida for the annual Walk of Life. The Gift of Life foundation flew both Pacheco and the person who received her donation to Florida.

“The whole thing was a surprise. I was so excited to know who he was. It was closure for the past year and I was hoping it would workout. Meeting him opened a new set of doors for me and to be in his life moving forward,” explained Pacheco.

The person she had donated her bone marrow to was a three year old boy named Mario. He has significant damage as result of his disease.

He had to relearn how to walk and talk; however, his disease was fully cured so it was not what Pacheco was originally expecting. Pacheco mostly got to meet Mario through his mom, but Mario fully understood what was going on through the whole experience.

“I feel like donating helped me put my life into perspective. I am a campus ambassador now for the gift of life. No one is really ever too busy to help someone.

I am a college student, active in my sorority, and on the field hockey team. I really feel like understand what is important in life more now,” described Pacheco.

Donating did not interrupt Pacheco’s life in any way.

She explained, “Mario needed bone marrow because his body had went into shock and was in a coma from his disease. After the transplant he became 99% me.

The bone marrow wasn’t an instantaneous cure, it took a while in the hospital, and the doctors removed his last few cancer cells that still lingered even after the transplant. He was finally cured from his disease, even though there was lingering brain damage.”

 

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